Village Volunteers is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping older adults live independently for as long as possible: sharing our time and skills so that our older neighbors in Eastern Sussex County, Delaware, can continue to live on their own.
The Greater Lewes Community Village Volunteers now known as Village Volunteers was conceived by founder Jackie Finer in 2010 and she still is active on the organization’s board. The Village is a member of the Village-to-Village Network consisting of 250 Villages nationwide.
The group’s headquarters is on King’s Highway near Clay Road in Lewes and Village Volunteers cover Lewes, Milton and Rehoboth Beach. Approximately 180 volunteers provide services to “members”. Services include transportation to various locations, Friendly Visits that provide companionship and conversation, household necessities and “handyman jobs”, telephone check-ins, pet care assistance, technical assistance with electronics and more. Volunteers are not medical professionals but are trained in assisting people with services provided. Village Volunteers partnered with a group to open another branch to serve communities south of the Indian River Bridge, South Coastal Village Volunteers, serves Bethany Beach, Millville, Ocean View and surrounding neighborhoods.
Those interested in becoming members or volunteers receive an information packet that contains a membership enrollment form and an extensive booklet that explains services and parameters in detail. (Click to learn more.)
As Executive Director Jackie Sullivan explains “A Village is a community-based organization that helps you to live independently. A Village is a group of volunteers who do the types of things most of us were raised to do…helping our neighbors.” She spoke recently at a Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild gathering and at a “Lunch with a Purpose” fundraiser. She also is Chair of the Governor’s Council on Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities in Delaware
She advises groups on planning ahead. “Older Adults are retiring to places they love which are not always near their family,” she noted. “Our children may still be working or live far enough away where they cannot help us very easily. We do not want to feel like a burden to our children, to our neighbors, to our friends.”
According to Sullivan, planning means knowing the available resources to help you age in place, having trust in those resources before you need them, starting the planning process before something goes wrong, and accepting that we may all need an extra hand at times.
Village Volunteers is very affordable. The “individual membership” is $500 annually for 25 hours of help per month. A household membership costs $750. Volunteer hours start as early as 7 am until 5 pm. Time shifts for volunteers is a maximum of two hours. The group asks for 48 hours’ notice.
Louise Huntly of Milton settled on tapping Village Volunteers after doing some research on other, more expensive, services. Due to eyesight issues, she needs rides to medical appointments that are beyond a safe drivable distance from her house. Coastal Highway and road construction are her biggest concerns. “I particularly like that the volunteer who brings you to the appointment will also pick you up to come home,” she says. She learned about the group from two neighbors who had positive experiences with the organization.
When she speaks to groups, Sullivan tells a funny story about their very first volunteer service to a member. The member needed help to find out why the printer wasn’t working.
“The volunteer arrives at the home and sees quite a mess on the floor,” she says. “He identifies the problem, plugs in the printer and it works! Sometimes we get a bit overwhelmed, and it helps to have another person’s perspective.”
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland.